One of the most interesting challenges we face when meeting prospective clients is their often-incomplete understanding of workflow architecture. In every organization, workflow is comprised of a series of linked business processes that build internal deliverables in a business system until they are delivered to customers outside of that business system. While every manager knows about process, and we have met very few who don’t value process, few managers can draw a process-based workflow architecture that makes sense for their department. Typically, managers either dive into too much detail or leave large workflow gaps.
The key to workflow architecture design is to rethink the organization as a series of deliverables. Every business system produces a few main deliverables that fulfill the value proposition of the department. To deliver this mission, the business system executes business processes that align to ultimately produce those deliverables. We have learned from our extensive experience that diagnosing workflow architecture is both art and part science.
Through our many years of working with clients, Business Enterprise Mapping has developed a simple and standard structure for defining workflow architecture in any enterprise. We find this structure works for any environment and provides a good paradigm for rethinking how the organization fulfills its mission and purpose. It also allows us to compare workflow performance across all organization sizes, shapes and types,
Five Standard Levels of Workflow Architecture.
Level One – Enterprise
Contains all business systems necessary to deliver the enterprise value proposition and support its mission. It is generally represented by a profit center in a larger organization, such as in a public company, or is a single, self-contained smaller business profit center.
Level Two – Business Systems
Is comprised of a collection of contiguous business processes connecting together to provide a value proposition that accomplishes the broader purpose of the business system. Business systems are frequently identified by their department names, such as Procurement or Finance. We have found that twelve standard business systems can be used to define any enterprise regardless of size, shape, or industry. The breadth and depth of each business system may vary by situation, but the fundamental construct remains largely the same. The twelve Enterprise Business Systems are briefly introduced in this list:
The Enterprise Management System develops company strategy, establishes the company scorecard, executes M&A activities and monitors organization performance through structured management review.
The Financial Management System manages and monitors the flow of capital through the enterprise, including financial transactions, accounting, and financial metrics.
The Facilities Management System acquires, develops, constructs and maintains enterprise facilities to provide a suitable working environment.
The Equipment Management System specifies, installs, calibrates and maintains equipment utilized to deliver the firm’s value proposition.
The Employee Management System qualifies, hires, monitors, develops and terminates employees to provide capable personnel that delivers their assigned organization responsibilities.
The Information Management System controls information, security, and data related to the business requirements, including hardcopy, electronic and web-based.
The Customer Development System manages the customer experience, from the first contact with the new prospect or lead through the first order for product or services, with ongoing account management and maintenance included.
The Product Development System conceives, plans, develops, tests and delivers new products and services, and also includes obsoleting previously active products and services.
The Supplier Development System manages and monitors the suppliers of materials and services to the enterprise, covering the complete supplier lifecycle, from qualifying, setup, contact, development, and management through disqualification.
The Operations Management System executes, delivers and manages the enterprise creation of customer value, including products and services quality, responsiveness, and economic value.
The Service Management System manages postproduction services, including installation, maintenance and service management, and customer follow-up, complaint handling and resolution.
The Improvement Management System organizes, manages, and monitors enterprise performance improvement, including products, services and processes, customer feedback and response, opportunity analysis, and corrective action.
Level Three – Business Processes
Take inputs from suppliers, transforms them through a series of connected tasks, and delivers those transformed outputs to process customers. Contiguous business processes connect to deliver the larger business system purpose. Our experience shows most Business Systems contain, on average, between eight and sixteen business processes. This means most organizations contain roughly 120-150 business processes in total. For example, a typical Product Development System might contain the following processes: Concept, Planning, Design, Verification, Validation, Change Control, Review, and End of Life. Interestingly, we meet very few organization leaders who can name all of the business processes within their span of control.
Level Four – Tasks, Events & Decisions
Represents a series of tasks (jobs, actions), events (meetings, training, etc.), and decisions (yes/no, go/no-go) that combine to transform a supplied input into a delivered output the customer values. We find that task counts for most processes easily range from 25 to 75 tasks. Tasks are the actions employees take that either add value to a customer’s product or not. The challenge in most organizations comes when management tries to fix detailed, task-related problems without fully understanding the business system or business process context impacting that task, or the task’s effect on other processes and tasks.
Level Five – Knowledge
Is the intellectual property of the enterprise. Knowledge includes a wide variety of information and content, such as records, data, policies, standards, training, metrics, regulatory, bills of materials, specifications, trademarks, and patents. Knowledge is accessed and utilized by business processes through tasks, events, and decisions. By locating knowledge sources and uses, an enterprise can more easily manage its knowledge and have it readily available where it can add the most value.
By defining management’s responsibility through the work that must be accomplished -instead of the hierarchical reporting relationships typically found on organization charts – the enterprise is in a far stronger position to improve performance and better meet customer expectations. While improving any task is generally good for the enterprise, improving a business process will yield more benefit, and improving an overall business system will give even far greater value and benefit to the enterprise. This new improvement paradigm can only be achieved by first redefining the organization according to its workflow and knowledge requirements, and then addressing the improvement opportunities that provide a superior value proposition and customer experience.
Challenge the Way You Think About Work